Tuesday, May 6, 2008

"Breast Milk May Help Kids' IQ"

says a study released today in the Los Angeles Times.

I'm a big proponent of breastfeeding, but I do want to mention I am not anti-formula. I realize it's a personal decision and for some women, it's not possible physically or emotionally. I do, however, think it's not given a fair shot with too many women. They "try" for too short a time, giving up too easily. And let's face it, formula feeding ~is~ easier in the long run. Although breastfeeding doesn't consist of making and cleaning bottles, the time investment of long term breastfeeding ~is~ quite difficult. Adding that to the millions of women who qualify for WIC who simply get their formula for free and you are going to see more women opt for formula than breastfeeding. My opinions of course.

Also, I think many women will say they physically could ~not~ do it when that's not, in fact, true. Before anyone with a true physical issue gets angry with me, I definitely do know of many, many, many reasons why some women can't breastfeed. But I think the number of women who say they ~couldn't~ is exaggerated. Think about the time when the options were to breastfeed or let the child die of starvation. Yeah, a lot more women had the ability then. Since the options to not breastfeed are so plentiful now, there are more to claim they can't.

Breastfeeding my first was HARD. My milk didn't let-down until day 6! And even then, I wasn't making too much milk. I was practically starving my little Ella for her first week. She lots weight and the doctor said I was going to have to supplement if the milk didn't come in within the next 24 hours. But it did. And during those first few weeks, my nipples cracked and bleed. Latching on was horrifically painful. I thought about giving up, but I kept at it. I successfully breastfed for an entire year, even when I was pregnant for the last 6 months. When Allison was born, I knew what I was in for. My milk took a long time to come in again, so this time, I supplemented with formula after each feeding. Once I was making enough of the liquid gold, it was breastmilk only again for a full year.

This study of 14,000 children has shown increased breastfeeding in the first few months of life appears to raise a child's verbal IQ. By the time these children were 6 years old, the breastfed children had a verbal IQ 7.5 higher than the non breastfed children. The findings also suggest the longer and infant is fed breastmilk exclusively, the greater the IQ improvement. Besides the improvement in IQ scores, the breastfed children scored an average of 5 points higher on tests specifically measuring vocabulary.

Dr Michael Kramer of McGill University of Montreal, said "the IQ improvements were modest and might not be noticeable on an individual basis, but the increase could have a significant effect on society as a whole." Which isn't bad - I wouldn't mind if society increased their IQ by 7.5 points!

As always, I take this study with a grain of salt. It only studied 14,000 children and as far as I could tell in the article, their hadn't been any other studies measuring the same thing. All I am acknowledging is that this is something potentially good. Another reason a mother may choose to breastfeed when she was on the fence about which way to go.


Poltzie said...

When they say breast fed do they mean fed on the breast or just simply fed breast milk (many women refer to breast feeding when they are actually talking about feeding breast milk with a bottle). The only reason I ask is because I would like to eventually be able to pump and have the hunny feed with a bottle but I wonder if it's better to have the child on the breast the whole time?

nancy said...

breast milk. It doesn't matter if it's from breast or bottle.

Meredith said...

While I agree that breastfeeding is better, it wasnt for me. I agree that I probably didn't try hard enough. With Tyler I lasted 3 weeks. At our 2 week appt. the pedi said I could start supplementing at night (at my asking) and after that my milk dried up. I remember one time I feed him for an hour striaght just for him to scream for a bottle and take 4 oz 10 minutes later. When I stopped breastfeeding cold turkey I had ZERO engorgemnet. Could I have kept trying and got my milk up - sure, but it just wasnt for me. I was always stressed that he wasnt getting enough and to add that to my baby blues it was just to much.

With Carter I lasted 5 days. That was more emotional than anything. I was already feeling guilty towards Tyler for pushing him out of his babyhood, that I couldn't just sit for an an hour or two with Carter letting Tyler play by himself for that long (to feed Carter I needed two hands to latch on, so even reading to him wasnt an option).

This is already long, but I wanted to make a comment on the study, Could the IQ points also go up because educated women are more likely to breastfedd than non educated? I am not saying educated mothers are better than non eductaed or anything like that. But educated others are more likely to talk to their children more, get them involved in activities, etc that could boost their IQ's as well. Just a thought.

And as a non breastfeeding mom I hate these studies. It makes me feel like I made a bad decision, eventho in my hert it was right for my family.

Jen said...

I think one of the things I worry most about is not being tough enough to breastfeed. I think it requires a tremendous amount of self sacrifice and determination. I hope that I have it in me.

nancy said...

Like I said Meredith, I understand that breastfeeding is not for everyone. I do think breastfeeding is best, but formula is ~not~ a bad thing.

As for the guilt, it was easy for me to get past that by thinking about ONE thing ... The first baby got to have time alone and the second baby gets NO time alone. Why feel guilty about the first baby only getting 14 months when the second didn't even get ONE day?

Knucks said...

Nancy, I commend you on breastfeeding for an entire year with both children! That's a huge accomplishment in my opinion, especially with working too. I breastfed for about 6 months with both mine. I went back to work full-time after both were born and it was really hard to keep my supply up while working.

This study on IQ may be pretty accurate though. My brother was formula fed, me breastfed. . . I've always thought I'm smarter than he is. :)

tootsie said...

I think every mother should try breastfeeding. And trying means more than a week. I don't understand how people say it's not for them if they've never tried. If you tried for 3 weeks and still can't get into fine, formula is fine. Breast milk has such huge benefits I think we owe it to our babies to at least try.

Our family is complete said...

I think it is great an all that they do these studies for bf babies, but I wish they would do ones on formula fed babies as well. They make it seem like all formula fed babies are doomed for failure. I believe a childs IQ has to do a lot with their up brining. For instance my husband and all of his siblings were formula fed. Every single one has gone to college and got degrees. My husbands sisters...one is an architect and the other has her doctric in Audiology. Both my husband and his brother both went to college to be Engineers and are both now ER docs. Now me I will admit I am not the brightest crayon in the box. I tend to think I have a bit more common sense, but I grew up in a family where both my parents worked in factories and didnt' have a lot of money so further education was not a priority in our household. I just think it is sad that we base our children's IQ's on whether they were breastfed or not. I had tried breastfeeding with Carter and lasted about a week. He practically ripped my nipple off of my breast. He was what was considered a "baracuda baby" and I did not continue. I think it was the best decision we made as parents to switch him to formula. It was taking a toll not only on me but my mariage. I have to say Carter is very bright and I get so many comments about it. I mean he was doing puzzles before he was a year old. With Peyton again I tried in the hospital but when his weight took a huge plumit I stopped. I guess I got scared. I think it is great if a women can breastfeed especially to a year, but for some women it just isn't that easy.

~Joe said...

Breast vs formula either way you'll still give them kool aid and potato chips one day :P.

Sarah R said...

I love breastfeeding. It is so incredibly amazing. It came so naturally to me. A woman's body makes milk for a reason and I feel like it is custom-made for Andrew. :) The milk actually changes for his needs as he grows and I find that impressive. Also, I remember hearing that during Hurricane Katrina, there were a lot of hungry, crying babies because they didn't have formula. I like knowing that my milk is here for Andrew and I don't have to worry in a situation like that (given, it would be rare...but still).

About breastfeeding being hard, yes--the first 2 weeks were hard. It took awhile to get him on each time and then the cramping (uterus contracting) as he fed hurt too. However, it only got easier. I had a "woohoo!" moment the first time he latched on in the dark without me having to position him.

If there are additional benefits (intelligence), then that's just an added bonus. Certainly not the reason I'm breastfeeding, but if it is true--that's great.

In regards to formula: those companies know what they're doing. I don't like the fact that they sent me 2 giant cans (without me requesting them). I can see how a mother, having reached a frustrating moment, might decide to just switch because it's there. I gave my cans to my neighbor girl because it happened to be the kind she used. I still get Enfamil coupons in the mail and I just throw them away.

Anonymous said...

To Meredity and Our Family:

This particular study actually does separate breastfeeding from other factors. The investigators studied two groups in Bulgaria (I believe): one hospital where breastfeeding was encouraged and one where it was not. The groups were otherwise similar in terms of education and class. Most previous studies were questioned for precisely the reasons you cite, i.e., that bfing mothers are probably not the same in other respects as formula-feeding ones.

Look, I was formula fed--and I turned out ok! Isn't that what everyone says? But the point is, bfing is unequivocally superior. And to imply otherwise is kind of like the person who lives to 99 while smoking 2 packs a day and says that smoking is good for you.

Anonymous said...

My thoughts on BFing was "I'll try and see how it goes." It was NOT easy. I was in tears several times, but was determined (stubborn?) to get it. We made it. 7mos and still going strong...pumping at work and everything. I'm convinced she's been healthier because of it! She's only had one cold in 7mos and both her parents are teachers. I don't have a problem wih people using formula either, but I wish there were more that breastfeed. I sometimes feel like I'm the only one.

Nancy, I pray that you'll be breastfeeding another little one in 9mos.


Anonymous said...

i had to comment on this one - I won't get into the reasons why, but I formula-fed my 2-year old. My 2-year old who uses words like "actually" "absolutely" and "different" in complete sentences -correctly- and carries on conversations as if she were 4. People stop us in public when they hear her talk. She knew her alphabet before 18 months. This is probably true for many 2 year olds. I'm positive BF'ing has many great benefits, but I feel my healthy, active and bright child is no worse for the wear. A child's IQ has as much to do with their environment and what and how they are being taught as anything. IMHO and experience, that is.

nancy said...

good lord anonymous. Did the study say that ALL FORMULA FED CHILDREN are stupid?


I can pretty much bet you were formula fed. You were, weren't you?

Kate said...

I wish they made lactation support more available for free after you give birth. Breast feeding can be so hard, especially in those first few weeks. I stuck with it, but I thought about quitting every day for the first 6 weeks.

sacredandscarred said...

As you know I'm also pro-breastfeeding. The lack of support and normalisation of breastfeeding in society is appalling. When I was having an extrememly difficult time for the first 3 months I found support so hard to come by. Every man and his dog (inc my mother) was happy to tell me that it was ok to go to formula. I was determined to breastfeed and this wasn't at all helpful. I needed people to tell me it would get better, to look at us feed and help us figure out what was going wrong. 3 out of 4 lactation consultants were useless. The first even wrote down that I had undersupply even though one of my issues was oversupply!

It was sheer determination that got us through and continue to breastfeed at 9 and a bit months.

There is so much misinformation out there as well! People seem to think that if their tiny baby doesn't sleep for x hours or if baby wants to feed often (very very NORMAL!) then it means they don't have enough milk or their milk is bad so they "have to" switch to formula. It's crazy.

I read an article a little while ago that asked why studies reported that, for example, breastfeeding lowers the incidence of obesity, rather than formula INCREASES the risk of obesity. Taking breastfeeding as the norm, if you know what I mean. There will always be women who flat out choose not to breastfeed, and a few who physically can't, but there has to be accurate information, and society needs to see breastfeeding as the normal way to feed babies.

Breastfeeding is just SO worth it, and has been something of a redemption for me after the loss of a normal conception and a normal birth.